Racing in the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National presented by Mazda Series is always something I look forward to, whether it be the intense and competitive atmosphere, fierce competition on the track or friendly attitude off the track. Going in to the weekend I knew I would have something for the regulars. This was my first race of the season, and some of the front runners were already well established, but I know Lime Rock Park and can get around it as well as anyone. The track is an incredible amount of fun in a Formula Skip Barber 2000 car, and the walls are very close so making mistakes not an option here. That's something I found out the previous year here, spinning and finding the amazingly close uphill wall. I spent the last year participating in other racing as well, learning a lot, and I knew I'd be better off than the year before.
The weekend started with a couple lapping sessions, and with a strong showing in both of those, I knew the car and I had the speed to compete up front. The early Friday morning session gave me and the other competitors a chance to work out a few things before qualifying. I pulled in after only a few laps, keeping the tires cool for a run for the pole. Qualifying came next and just as me and my coach Ryan Hall expected, the flying laps came early. My fastest lap came right out of the box on my second lap. I came in and parked to let the car cool, and went back at it. Unfortunately, my next chance at a flyer lap was spoiled by a fellow competitor's four wheels off experience. It was frustrating, but also a reality when one needs to rely on the draft of another car to sit on pole. At the end of the session I sat third, and was ecstatic because I knew that would give me a shot at the win.
The second practice and qualifying combo involved a change in track configuration from the Classic Lime Rock configuration to the addition of an uphill chicane. It was a frustrating transition for me because I love Classic Lime Rock configuration – it's thrilling. After the quick practice session, I was not as satisfied as earlier. Being a little off the pace is never great after being up at the front in a previous session. I was confident for qualifying though because I knew with the proper strategy and a few more laps on track I could be back near the pointy end of the grid. We went into the second qualifying session with the same strategy as the first, to run a few hot laps alone to get a solid time in, and then find a drafting partner. It didn't go as planned, the first few laps weren't flyers like the first session because I was still figuring out the track. By the end of the session, when we had found a good partner in points leader Scott Anderson, time ran out for us to get a good lap in. I ended the session 9th and with a lot of work to do in the race.
Saturday was an early day, with the race starting at 9am. I was so excited it didn't matter to me. I got a great start, slotting into second place. Going for the lead on lap 2 got me a little screwed up. I chose my battles early, not wanting to go three wide in the opening laps. I rode in fourth position for a long time, trying my best to break the draft to fifth so the front four cars could battle it out. It was working until the caution came out, negating the front four's hard work and severely shortening the amount of green flag laps in the race. We restarted the race with 10 minutes to go, which was not a lot of time to break away, but the front five cars did so, making for a great battle to the finish. Coming to the white flag, a couple of us popped to the outside, making it three wide on entry to the corner, the result being a big enough gap between second and third for the race to be between the front two. Knowing this, I went for third, but missed it at the line. In reflection, I am incredibly happy with the result, but at the time I was not pleased with just missing the podium. I was reassured with the fact that there was another race in the weekend.
When I woke up to the sound of rain overhead on the second race day, I was happy in many ways. Rain is the great equalizer as they say, and I knew it would make the race very exciting. The rain stopped about an hour before the race, but the switch to the treaded BFGoodrich g-Force Sports made it clear the track was still wet. The start was crazy, I saw cars go four-wide in front of me, then a cloud of smoke and I ducked inside, picking up two spots to seventh place, from there I battled to a high of third. Competition on track was rather physical, with some rubs and other contact, resulting in the loss of my front wing. The wing isn't a downforce machine, but now I appreciate its presence. The only area its absence really affected me was in the downhill, as the car picked up massive understeer. Coming to the white flag, I was in third, but my slight speed disadvantage allowed the fourth-position car to draft by me on the outside down the straight. We remained side by side through Turns 1, 2 and 3. This allowed the fifth position car to get a run and make a risky pass into the chicane, pushing me wide and into the grass. When all was said and done, I crossed the stripe in fifth. I was really happy with this result, mainly because the race was so exciting, it really took a lot of skill by all the drivers to race as hard as we did and keep it together.
Being so close to both podiums is a bit of a heartbreak, but the weekend was really great as a whole. It reminded me why I love racing with Skip Barber Racing School so much, with talented drivers who are really motivated to get the most out of the car. I'd like to thank my coach Ryan Hall for his fantastic help and my mom and dad for the opportunity. I look forward to next time!